Continuing with the Carnethy tradition of abusing family holiday time I saw that the 30th edition of the Traunsee Bergmarathon coincided with our summer holiday to Austria. Once I’d secured an entry, I then booked some accommodation nearby in the village of Ebensee. This was the site of a Nazi concentration camp where over 8,000 died building underground tunnels to house Hitler’s V2 rocket program. Very little remains of this dark piece of history, and you have to seek out the hidden memorials.
The race itself was 70km with around 4,500m of ascent/descent taking in 7 hills around Lake Traunsee. After a lengthy briefing, mainly in German, the race started at 3.00am from the town square in Gmunden. The first few miles on forest tracks and trails reminded me of the Trossachs Night Trail Series, and the pace very similar- way too fast with 70km ahead of us. The route then went through a series of tunnels under the mountains, and I thought of those lost souls who had died in their construction.
Emerging in the open the race took a dramatic turn as we climbed the Traunstein; an almost vertical lump of rock rising from the lake to 1,691m. The markers followed one of the via ferrata routes; an 800m climb up cables, ladders and metal plates with some worrying exposure. Overnight rain had made the rocks and cables greasy, and at times my feet were struggling for grip. The Austrians, who made up 95% of the field, were much quicker than me at climbing, and I found myself frequently stepping aside to let them pass.
Once over the high point we faced a steep technical descent down more cables and scree filled gullys. I was somewhat relieved to reach the shores of the Lake, and one of the many aid stations, each one well stocked with food and drink, including “man cuts” and beer.
I reached the halfway point at Ebensee after 5.5 hours, and after a pit stop began the 1,200m climb up to the summit of Feuerkogel (1,592m). After another slippy descent down narrow forest trails the route eased into tracks and some sections of road back to Gmunden. I finished in just over 10hrs (47th and 1st Brit – out of 2), in time to spend the rest of the day with the family.
A fantastic race, very much of 2 halves. In fact the organisers give competitors the option of the full 70km, or either half from Gmunden to Ebensee, or Ebensee to Gmunden, if the exposed scrambling on Traunstein is not to your fancy.
Race info: http://www.bergmarathon.at/
Results: https://my3.raceresult.com/ 84075/results?lang=de#1_A472E2